Sonic wanderings in Brussels


The Balades Sonores record shop in Brussels is the tinier version of big sister La Fabrique Balades Sonores in Paris. Antoine Pasqualini, previously a fixture at the Paris branch, left his spot at the counter and traded his view of the Eiffel tower for the much more interesting shapes of the Atomium to get a taste of the Brussels life. He might have felt a little homesick though, for after moving house, Antoine started dreaming of stacking records in his new capital.

Antoine: “Thomas Changeur and Esther Marti of Balades Sonores Paris had been quite under Brussels’ spell for a while, especially its music scene. When I moved here, we stayed in touch and suddenly, a crazy idea became reality. Opening a shop in Brussels is rather simple, it’s keeping it open afterwards that’s the hard part.”

Since October 1st, Balades Sonores has set up shop across from the Botanique concert hall, selling vinyl (new, re-issues and second hand), clothing (Chickamancha), DVDs, CDs, books, posters and screen prints. The shop doesn’t sell hi-fi gear like its Parisian sibling just yet, but you will find needles for your pick-up and all sorts of vinyl cleaning products on the shelves. Plus, the coffee corner fixes you up with a fresh cup o’ joe for which you may pay however much you like.

Antoine: We focus on new releases. Because selling second-hand records is a lot more work and the competition in that area is already fierce. Antoine is the kind of guy who likes to keep his options open and doesn’t get fixated on a single genre. You’ll find indie, pop, rock, older stuff, jazz, hip hop, electronic, experimental, ambient, chanson…

This place has a bit of history, dating from before Balades Sonores stencilled their name above the door. Over the years, it has housed a book shop, a concert venue and even a vintage furniture shop. Antoine: We decided to keep some of the traces of all these past activities. It’s why we’ve decorated the whole interior with furniture from the 60s and 70s. A lot of things were picked up on the street or at flea markets. It’s our philosophy to spend as little as possible on these things.

Antoine: Mimicking its Paris counterpart, Balades Sonores’ trademark is to host small in-store gigs. We want to be a place that supports local bands and labels. Promoting local bands is our thing. Especially when they can’t find a place to play, we’ll be happy to provide it for them. We specifically want to offer a stage to Belgian bands, but also build some bridges with our mother company in Paris. Belgian bands can go and perform there, as well as the other way around. We also have an existing partnership with the Le Brass cultural centre. We aim to extend these kinds of collaborations even further in the future. We hope to contribute to Brussels’ music scene that way.